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Embedding autonomy into company culture is next-level leadership – an interview with Vivian Chen by Reza Cristián

by | Sep 27, 2021

Being out of the cage, autonomy.
Image Credit: Rosie - Anna Mischke @peachbaby
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Over the past year and a half, as the pandemic kept many people at home, work culture changed almost infinitely. Many companies were forced to learn how to work with their employees working remotely.  And employees were forced to learn how to work from home. Now, as people are looking to return to some sort of normalcy, many companies are also looking to open their offices back up, in spite of data that shows this way of working is unnecessary, even archaic.

Getting up early to make the morning commute to an office, working late, barely taking a lunch break, and heading home just to do it all over again has been the norm for so long —it remains, for many leaders and executives, the only type of work that is deemed acceptable. With overwhelming evidence that many workers would like the option to continue working from home, leadership can no longer ignore the need for change.Tomorrow’s successful companies will be the ones run by leaders that embed autonomy into their company culture.

Don’t take my word for it, though. I had the chance to sit down with Vivian Chen, a long time advocate for a future of work where everyone can work whenever they want; however they want. She created Rise, a next-gen professional-social network, to bridge the disconnect between who we are at work and in our personal lives. This is done by building genuine connections between both companies and peers.

Rise was always about giving woman the freedom to pursue independent work, in order to own their work and careers. When COVID hit, the landscape changed drastically as more companies were open to independent/flexible work, but more people were also looking for it. This gave Ms. Chen a perfect opportunity to go deep with her community and understand what they were looking for and what their frustrations were.

Because Rise members are startup founders, small business owners, freelancers, product designers, Etsy shop owners, and so many other things, understanding what they needed helped her understand what we need to do to become the next-gen leaders they are looking for.

I had the pleasure of connecting with her to discuss the future of work and ask the key questions you need to start answering today to be successful tomorrow.



What is the one thing we are missing about the future of work?

Vivian Chen: I see a future centered around identity and expression, both for people as well as companies. Forming lasting relationships through inviting others into your work, authentically showcasing who you are, and being transparent about the day-to-day of your work is going to be key.

I also see more mission-alignment between people’s work and personal lives. It’s no longer about ping-pong tables and nap rooms. Standing out is going to be about supporting climate solutions, social causes, and your employees wellbeing.

Ask yourself, “How can I support my employees and the things they care about?”



Why is embedding flexible options into your culture essential?

Vivian Chen: Because the success of your company depends on it. This is no longer about proving to companies that autonomous workers are just as valuable as the old way of working. It is about doing what is necessary to attract and retain the best people.

The best companies are built with stellar people. Stellar people have stellar opportunities. If you don’t offer them, someone else will. And that’s costly.

Ask yourself, “How can I start reimagining the future of work at my company, today?”



How does a company leader start to implement a more flexible work schedule?

Vivian Chen: Listen to your people! There are more options than ever before. You are not just competing against other companies across a multitude of geographies, but you are also competing against passion projects and choice.

Building an employer brand is more critical than ever in this remote age. Millennial and Gen Z workers want to work at mission aligned companies.

Ask yourself, “How are you showcasing your values, cultures, unique quirks through the ways you support your employees?”



How can we create rituals and habits for our employees (and ourselves!) that will help us/them be productive with flexible work options?

Vivian Chen: I’ve never been a fan of journaling. But, during the early days of COVID, when everything was lonely and terrifying, I started the habit of capturing my moods in Notion. For over a year, I’ve recorded how I honestly felt each day by simply choosing red, yellow, or green.  Looking back and being reminded that when there are downs, there will be ups to follow has helped me get through a lot.

This ritual has helped me be productive when I needed to be. It’s less about the particular system and more about the simple reminder that every day is not going to be a good day, and a good day is also just around the corner.

Ask yourself, “What rituals can you create to remind yourself and your team that the downs are almost always followed by ups?”




Reza’s Socials: Instagram

Editor’s Socials & Website – LaKay Cornell: InstagramTwitterLinkedInWebsite


Written by Reza Cristián
Founder of SUSTAIN the Mag & Brand Development Manager at TikTok

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